An ethical and social examination of dementia as depicted in Japanese film

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Abstract

The ageing population means that dementia is a serious social problem in Japan. Attitudes toward ageing in Japan are increasingly negative, and views of life and death among older people vary. Numerous ethical problems exist in the medical treatment of dementia. Amidst such conditions, it is important and beneficial to examine films that depict demented patients and to consider the issues raised by these films. Through film we see many aspects of a country and its times: culture and ideology, morality and religion, medical treatments, views on life and death, social conditions and what issues are viewed as problems. The best films both entertain audiences and provide viewers with opportunities to think about social problems. In the past 30 years, 10 films about dementia had been made in Japan and two of these—The Twilight Years (Kôkotsu no hito) and Memories of Tomorrow (Ashita no kioku) are the main focus of this paper. In our analysis we consider three points: how the patients are informed of their disease, the characters’ wishes for death, and terminal medical care.

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